Great Lakes Urban Habitat Restoration Symposium January 22 – 23, 2009 Chicago, Illinois ABSTRACT Author: WILLIAM J. WEAVER, P.E., D.WRE – Vice President – Sr. Principal Engineer -- AECOM, Vernon Hills, IL Abstract Title: Great Lakes Coastline Habitat Restoration - Design Constraints and Opportunities Great Lakes coastal habitat is a crucial part of an ecosystem within a basin that contains nearly 20 percent of the earth’s fresh water. This basin supports more than ten percent of the U.S. population, and more than one fourth of the Canadian population. The glacial history and sheer size and characteristics of the Great Lakes provide a diverse ecosystem. Urban development in the basin has significantly influenced the health and diversity of this ecosystem, especially in the highly developed urban centers where population is concentrated near the lakes. This paper explores coastline habitat restoration design constraints and opportunities that should be considered when implementing coastal project works. A healthy lake ecosystem is comprised of diverse physical characteristics including rocky water edges and reefs, marshes, beaches and dunes, clean water, and shoals. Adjacent upland areas are of equal importance in terms of their ability to buffer and complement the functional value of the coastal environment. In urban areas, we must also consider the reality, necessity, and importance of human activities within the coastal environment. Urban development stress as well as natural stressors such as open coast wave climate and lake level dynamics are key reasons that can limit coastal habitat and biodiversity. While the interaction of man and nature has not always been productive with respect to the health of the coastal ecosystem, there are many examples where a reasonable balance exists. With proper planning, there is much that can be done to improve the coastal ecosystem in the future. There are numerous examples of past development activities along Great Lakes coastlines that have caused stress and destruction of habitat. There are also areas where development has been constrained near urban centers that contain tremendous habitat and biodiversity such as the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Furthermore, there are also many case histories of urban lakefront development that have included habitat restoration and added significantly to the health of the ecosystem. This paper explores a number of Great Lake shoreline areas including those where development should be carefully restricted, and areas where proper development can be accomplished in a way that enhances the coastal ecosystem. This presentation focuses on several case histories that illustrate habitat conditions and restoration strategies for a variety of Great Lakes coastal environments: o o o o o o The Chicago Park District, City of Chicago and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have completed more than $300 million (9 miles) of shoreline improvements in the City of Chicago during the last decade. Lake Michigan glacial bluff and shoreline restoration in Northern Illinois. Illinois man-made beaches. Presque Isle rock bluff and shoreline restoration along Lake Superior. Lake Michigan glacial bluffs and shoreline in central Michigan. “Accidental” habitat. As the push for sustainable design has taken hold during the last decade, shoreline habitat has received more attention. Sustainable design concepts are gradually seeping into the lexicon and regulations of agencies that are responsible for coastal development. While funding for coastal habitat restoration remains difficult to come by, there is much that can be accomplished by influencing the design of public and private coastal projects. Coastal habitat enhancement can often be incorporated into these designs for little or no added cost. There is still much work that needs to be done to better understand the Great Lakes coastal ecosystem so that urban planners can effectively influence coastal project works. However, there is still much that can be accomplished by simply considering the following basic design tenets: reduce lakefront erosion – especially in areas containing nutrient rich soil; consider treatments that can enhance water quality; create diverse coastal environments using clean stone, sand and plant materials; and inclusion of habitat enhancement as a key goal in the planning process.